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There's only one right answer
Iliad vs. Odyssey
by Neil Anderson

hich is better: "The Iliad" or "The Odyssey"?

It's not enough to have read both of Homer's tomes. One must have an opinion about which is better. And, to make it tricky, there's only one right answer.

"The Iliad" is clearly better.

The snobs have it
Why? Snob value. "The Iliad" is about a needlessly bloody war, fought for a completely trivial reason, by narcissistic aristocrats who are compelled into battle by even more narcissistic gods.

"The Odyssey" is a sentimental tearjerker about a none-too-bright sailor who flounders about in the Mediterranean for 10 years, looking for his family.

Author's perversity towards protagonist
Homer spends most of "The Iliad" building up Hector as a character worthy of our admiration, then has him killed off by petulant and sulky Achilles. Achilles then makes a great show of paying his respects to Hector. Nothing approaching such audacious hypocrisy can be found in "The Odyssey."

Easy way to trap people pretenders
The one thing most people remember about the Trojan War is the big wooden horse. But that story doesn't appear in "The Iliad." It's a lot easier for people who don't read to fake knowing the plot to "The Odyssey."

More snob value
Most people prefer "The Odyssey" to "The Iliad," professing to find it easier to empathize with a family man than a bunch of bloodthirsty warriors. Either they're hypocrites, they're kidding themselves, or they're hopelessly middlebrow. "The Iliad" takes this category, too.

Comparative literary descendants
"The Iliad" inspired Gore Vidal's brilliant "The Judgment of Paris." "The Odyssey" inspired James Joyce's overrated "Ulysses." I'd give the nod to "The Iliad" on this point, too, if it weren't for the fact that "The Odyssey" also inspired Charles Willeford's "Cockfighter," as well as a pretty good Scrooge McDuck story by Carl Barks. So this category is a dead heat.

Even with a tie in the last category, it's "The Iliad" in a walk. After all, what point is there in reading a book if you can't quantify its literary merit?


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